Reviewed by Angela Paull
I was sent the “What On Earth Wallbook – Timeline of Nature” book to review from The Natural History Museum.
To call it a book though might be a slightly misleading. In fact this is a wall chart/newspaper/quizbook/intellectual “Where’s Wally”. The amount of information included is quite phenomenal and I have so far only scratched the surface myself.
The book really comes in two parts. Firstly you have a fold out wall chart, this is detachable from the book so you have the choice of whether to pin it on the wall or leave it folded up neatly. When unfolded in full, the wall chart is a massive two metres in length, so the decision about pinning it up or not might come down to whether you have a long enough area of blank wall space! It spans a massive period of time (essentially 4.5 billion years ago to the present day) and pretty much chronicles the development of our planet and eco-system. From year Zero (when the first signs of life emerge as organic chemicals in the ocean fuse into molecules capable of duplication) to the year 2000 (a population boom where cities such as London require farmland over 125 times bigger than the area of land they occupy to feed their enormous populations) the chart is full of illustrations, each with their own description and explanation.
Now, when you’re trying to squeeze in that much information you have to make your typeface and pictures pretty small and this is where “The Magnifier” comes in. Inside the front cover, tucked up in its own little pocket, this is a plastic magnifying glass which enables you to look closely at any area of the Wall Chart. Kids will absolutely love this as it gives you a real feeling a being a nature detective – adults will love it as they’ll probably struggle to read the typeface without it! There are some fabulous pictures of dinosaurs, jungle animals/wildlife and marine life which really illustrate the evolution of nature and these are all situated under the timelines in which they lived. You can really see how, for example, the Hipparion from the Miocene Era would have evolved into today’s horse.
Supplementing this riot of illustrations is “The Wallbook Chronicle” – which has the look of a newspaper. This gives a written potted history of some of the most important human discoveries/theories. From such epic questions as “Where Do We Come From?” to “Climate Change: The Biggest Scientific Challenge of All Time” via Gladiators and Darwin. It spans a period between 450BC and 2014 and is dotted throughout with illustrations (including a few amusing advertisements) and presented very much as a report in a newspaper would be. This makes some pretty hefty subjects fun and interesting to read – surely an advantage when it comes to education! At the back of “The Wallbook Chronicle” is a crossword, letters page and 50 question quiz (multiple choice, phew!) – I plan to work through the quiz myself as I’m pretty certain this will teach me loads!
All in all, this is a really impressive publication. A fun and accessible way of presenting the history and timeline of nature. This would be a brilliant resource to keep at home and instantly makes me want to visit The Natural History Museum to see some of these things in the flesh (or bones when it comes to the dinosaurs!).
There are five books in the series altogether:
1: Big History
4: Science & Engineering
If the other titles are as comprehensive as “Nature” I could see real advantage in having the entire set on your bookshelf. These aren’t just for children but just as useful for adults – let’s face it history can be a dusty and dreary subject at times and this book makes it fun.
Available to buy from What On Earth? here.